Skip to main content

tv   Your Job in Germany and Frank Capra  CSPAN  June 7, 2014 8:00am-8:41am EDT

8:00 am
>> each week, "reel america" brings you archival films. in the first of a five part look at hollywood directors who made films for the u.s. government during world war ii, we feature frank capra, who made and supervised dozens of films during the war. including the "why we fight" series. up next, the 14 minute "your job in germany," a training film for troops occupying the defeated nation. we will show you a four-minute animated private snafu training film. but first we talk to a story in -- journalist and film historian mark harris. >> a story of hollywood and the second world war, and joining us from new york is mark harris. thank you for being with us.
8:01 am
>> thanks for having me. >> as you put together this book, and we will see some of the films from these well-known directors, how much did you know before you researched the topic? >> my training is as a film historian and not a war historian. what i was investigating was the gap in the resumes of these five directors. i would look and see that george stevens made no hollywood movies between 1943 and 1948. that got me curious about their war service, which is the part of their lives that we often ignore and what it meant to them. and what kind of work they did in the war. >> frank capra is best known for "mr. smith goes to washington" and "it's a wonderful life." but he was also put -- asked to
8:02 am
put these films together by general marshall. why did marshall go to directors like frank capra and not have the military produce them? >> it is a really interesting counterintuitive moment. marshall did not have the military produce them because he knew that military movies had been terrible. many of them were in use since the late 1920's and they were just really clumsily made. there is still the question of why marshall did not turn to the makers of newsreels, nonfiction films, to document the entire war effort. i think it is because marshall really understood the power of narrative film. he had seen its effect during the great depression when movies were shown on the sides of trucks to people in the wpa.
8:03 am
>> america formally entering world war ii, but what was frank capra doing prior to that? >> he was the most successful and best compensated director in hollywood. he was on the cover of time magazine. with the headline "columbia's gem." he was considered the director who turned columbia pictures into a major force. he had won three academy awards for directing. 1934, followed up those three 1936, 1938. oscars with "mr. smith goes to washington."
8:04 am
he was at an extraordinary peak achievement and reputation before the war broke out. >> as an italian immigrant, the u.s. was fighting his home country with mussolini in alliance with hitler's germany, correct? >> his family was sicilian and they emigrated to america when he was a very small boy. he really had no particularly deep memories of living anywhere other than america, but he was acutely conscious that his status as an immigrant diminished him in the eyes of many americans who were suspicious of foreigners. that can sound paranoid or oversensitive, but if you look at some of the stories that were written about capra, even at the height of his success, it was not uncommon for writers to
8:05 am
compare him to an italian -- greengrocer. i mean, stereotypes were in full force and deployed in an ugly way. his war work, which was central to the war film making effort, was about articulating his patriotism about asserting his identity as an american. >> let me ask you about two of his bodies of work. first of all, "why we fight" -- what was behind that? >> it was the first assignment marshall gave capra when he was trying to induce him to join the effort. frank capra was old enough to have gotten and exemptions from service and the importance of this civilian work would have gotten him civilian work even at his age had not. marshall's impetus in suggesting the series was to replace a
8:06 am
series of very trite, very dull -- very dry, very dull lectures that incoming gis are being given at the ages of 18 or 19 or 20 about what the war was about, the history in japan and europe, and why we were fighting. capra was asked to make a series of movies that would explain that. the war department never quite got around to telling capra their version of why we fight. the answer to the question of why we are fighting was created by capra and his team of screenwriters rather than articulating policy. it was a hollywood filmmaker they gave millions of gis the answer to that question. >> where did the footage come
8:07 am
from? what were the sources? >> this was a real necessity as the mother of invention moment. he was asked to make these movies, but he had almost no budget, something like 450,000 dollars to make 50 movies. he did not have the budget to shoot film, so after seeing the propaganda film in new york, he -- which was "triumph of the -- he decided all of the propaganda filmmaking, the film from germany and italy and japan that had been confiscated by the treasury department, could be incorporated into these why we fight movies. in a way, the enemy's propaganda could be turned against them and between that and his very innovative ideas to have animation in the movies,
8:08 am
animated maps showing black ink spilling across europe or a crab like or octopus like tentacles reaching out to grab other countries. those were two innovative ways of getting around the fact that he did not have the money to film battle scenes. >> we will have a chance to see another frank capra work. this is a 14 minute documentary entitled "your job in germany." mark harris, who is the audience? >> the audience was the group of soldiers who were stationed in germany after we want. -- after we won. was essentially a training film for them to tell them how not to deal with the german people who have been defeated. it contains some very tough
8:09 am
material and unsentimental instructions not regard. -- in that regard. >> you spent a lot of time researching this for your book, what surprised you the most about frank capra? >> his politics are really complicated and they are impossible to track through his entertainment movies. everybody sees him, because of the popularity of films like "mr. smith goes to washington," as a man of the people. he was an actually a conservative republican and he boasted that he never voted for in any of his presidential elections and he thought he was being overtaxed by the government and he really disliked unions. his politics are kind of allover the place. at one point, he was infatuated with mussolini.
8:10 am
doing this book made me realize that war crystallized his politics into patriotism. it was the time in his life i think capra was the clearest about what he felt about america and his patriotism overrode any political leanings he might have. >> mark harris, thank you. written by theodore driesell and director frank capra here is a , 14 minute training film titled "your job in germany." ♪
8:11 am
♪ >> the problem now is future peace. that is your job in germany. your conduct and attitude, you can lay the groundwork of a piece that could last forever. or just the opposite. you could lay the groundwork for a new war to come. just as american soldiers have to do this job 26 years ago, so other american soldiers, your sons, might have to do it again. germany appears to be beaten. hitler is out. swastikas gone. nazi propaganda off the air.
8:12 am
concentration camps empty. you will see ruins, you will see flowers, you will some mighty pretty scenery. do not let a fool you. you are in enemy country, be alert, suspicious of everyone, take no chances. you are up against something more than tourist scenery, you are up against german history. it is not good. this book was written chapter by chapter, not by one man, not by one furor, it was written by the german people. chapter one, blood and iron.
8:13 am
under the pressure and bismarck -- the prussian bismarck the , german empire was built. serving notice to all that their religion was higher that their god was blood. it built itself by war at the expense of denmark, austria, and france. in the mightiest military power 1871, in all of europe. enough conquest for a while. timeout to digest it. europe relaxes, the danger is over. nice country, germany. tender people, the germans. very sweet music. chapter two, a new furor, kaiser wilhelm.
8:14 am
a new title, deutschland uber allis. against serbia, russia, france, belgium, italy, britain, and the united states of america. world war i. it took all of us to do it, but we finally knocked that furor out. defeated the german army. the second chapter ended. we march straight into germany and said, these people are ok. it was just that kaiser we had to get rid of. you know, this is really some country. when it comes to culture, they lead the whole world.
8:15 am
we poured in our sympathy, we pulled out our armies, and they flung chapter three in our faces. , sloganmber three "today, germany is hours. world." the whole and the tender repentant german people carry the torch of their people to austria, czechoslovakia, poland, france, england, norway, holland, denmark, belgium, luxembourg, russia, yugoslavia, and the theugoslavia, greece, and
8:16 am
united states of america. over the shattered homes, over the broken bodies of millions of people who had let down their guard, we almost lost this one. it took everything we had. measure the cost in money, there is not that much money. measure the cost in lives, we can only guess at that figure. it took burning and scalding, drenching, freezing, it took legs, fingers, arms, and it took them by the millions. it cost hours, days, years that were never returned.
8:17 am
we threw in our help, our wealth, our past and our future. it took every last ounce of our courage and guts. now what happens? this is where we came in. o, hell, this is where we came in. yes, this is where we came in. chapter four? it can happen again. that is why you , occupy germany. to make that next war impossible. no easy job. in battle you keep your wits about you. do not relax the caution now. the nazi party may be gone, but nazi thinking, training, and trickery remains.
8:18 am
the german lust for conquest is not dead. it is merely gone undercover. somewhere in this germany are the ss guards, the gestapo gangsters. out of uniform, you will not know them, but they will know you. somewhere in this germany are storm troopers, at of sight -- out of sight, but still watching you and hating you. somewhere in this germany, there 2 million -- there are 2 million ex-nazi officials, out of power, but still in there. and to -- and still sinking, thinking about next time. remember, every part of every system was part of it. the doctors, technicians, clock makers, postman, farmers, housekeepers, toymakers,
8:19 am
barbers, cooks, dockworkers, practically every german was part of the nazi network. guard particularly against this group -- these are the most dangerous. german youth. children who came into power during the knotty party power -- nazi party power. they know no other system than the one that poisoned their minds. trained to win a cheating. trained to pick on the weak. they were brought up on propaganda, products of the worst educational crime in the entire history of the world. practically everything you believe in, they have been trained to hate and destroy. they believe they were born to be masters, that we are inferior, designed to be their slaves.
8:20 am
they may deny it now, that they -- but they believe it and they will try to prove it again. do not argue with them. do not try to change their point of view. other representatives will concern themselves with that. you are not being sent to germany as educators. you are soldiers on guard. you'll observe their local laws, respect their customs and religion, and you will respect their property rights. you will not ridicule them. you will not argue with them. you will not be friendly. you will be aloof, watchful, and suspicious. every german is a potential source of trouble. therefore, there must be no fraternization with any of the german people. fraternization means making
8:21 am
friends. the german people are not our friends. you will not associate with german men, women, or children. you will not associate with them on familiar terms, even -- either in public or private. you will not visit in their homes nor will you ever take them into your confidence. however friendly, however sorry, however sick of the nazi party they may seem, they cannot come back into the civilized full -- civilized fold just by sticking out their hand and saying, i'm sorry. sorry, not sorry because the -- not sorry they caused the war, they are only sorry they lost it. that is the hand that dropped the bombs on defenseless rotterdam. brussels, belgrade. that is the hand that destroyed
8:22 am
the cities, villages, and homes of russia. that is the hand that held the whip over the polish, yugoslav, french, and norwegian slaves. that is the hand that took their food, that is the hand that starved them, that is the hand that murdered, massacred greeks, czechs, jews. that is the hand that killed and crippled american soldiers, sailors, marines. do not clasp that hand. it is not the kind of hand you can clasped in friendship. but there are millions of germans, some of those guys must be ok. perhaps, but which ones? just one mistake may cost you your life. trust none of them. someday the german people might be cured of their disease, the super race disease, the world
8:23 am
conquest disease, but they must prove they have been cured beyond a shadow of a doubt before they ever again are allowed to take their place in -- among respectable nation. until that day, we stand guard. we are determined of their plan for world conquest shall stop here and now. we are determined they should never again use peaceful industries for warlike purposes. we are determined that our children should never face this german terror. we are determined that the vicious german cycle of war, phony peace, war, phony peace, war, phony peace shall once and for all time come to an end.
8:24 am
that is your job in germany. >> the film from 1945, director frank capra. joining us from new york is the author mark harris. put the timing of this film into perspective. >> "your job in germany" was a postwar film, it was made to be shown to soldiers. not to general audiences. they were the you in the title. they were trying to do with a recently defeated german populace. the movie was largely written by theater guide till -- theodore
8:25 am
assel, who we know better dr. seuss. at the time frank capra recruited him, he was a left-wing editorial cartoonist in new york. he was strongly anti-german and it is the product of a dispute that was prevalent within the war department as the war neared its end. not just for germany, but for japan as well. there was the question of how much should the civilian population, as opposed to the military leaders or the emperor of japan or hitler be blamed for what happened? how much reconciliation with ordinary germans should there be after the war. isel was very much
8:26 am
of the belief that the german people should shoulder a large portion of the blame. capra was in agreement with that. he was very strident about the idea that there was something in the german character that made them worship these supermen, these ideal leaders and there was a great danger in trusting or befriending or reaching out to or even forgiving the rank-and-file of german citizenry. "your job in germany" reflects that tough tone saying to american soldiers, these people aren't your friends, don't trust them, don't be cruel to them and don't be abusive, but do not extend your hand in friendship. do not socialize with them. do not go to their houses.
8:27 am
>> one quick point, the andpective came through providing the audience some historical perspective on your army's role throughout europe and by today's standard, it was not politically correct. >> absolutely not. there was a real belief in enemies. there was a film made under capra's authority about japan, sort of the equivalent about japan, a film that involved from a movie called "know your enemy" that was deemed so brutal and so incendiary that when it finally arrived in japan, right after hiroshima and nagasaki, macarthur said we will not show this.
8:28 am
we have already made the point and we do not need to do this. >> mark harris, i want to ask you about a private snafu, 26 cartoons, not designed for children. what is the story behind it? >> they were not designed for children or adult civilians. these were adults only cartoons that were meant to be shown to servicemen. they were technically instructional films. snafu is this screwup private. he looks like elmer fudd. he was meant to give soldiers instructions on everything from the danger of consorting with prostitutes in foreign countries to how to protect yourself against malaria to the
8:29 am
importance of not gossiping or passing along secrets. usually, these five minute movies, many of which were also written by theodore kiesel -- geisel and they sound a lot like dr. seuss material, the instruction was by negative example. private snafu would do something wrong and i think he ended up dead or being blown to bits in about a third of them. only to come back in the next installment a few months later. >> mark harris, thank you very much for being with us. private snafu in "going home." >> a soldier returns and his hometown is proud.
8:30 am
look at that brass band. look at that crowd. ♪ a returning hero has a million things to talk about. safe at home away from battle, restricted stuff makes harmless prattle. >> our outfit is number we hold 999. the center of the line. the british told the hills just left. 200 medium tanks. >> now that you have that off your chest, why go out and blab the rest? >> our landing field, boy is that suite. it measures 15,000 feet with nine new runways all concrete. jap tanks pack a
8:31 am
punch. if they ever start to push, they will shut us out to see. to sea. >> the news of the day. a new secret weapon exists when you like to know? >> our new flying bazooka with radar control. i know all about it, i was right there. i seen it with my own eyes. the propelling charge is attached to the fuselage [indiscernible] [indiscernible drunk blabbing] speaking of convoys, when i
8:32 am
sailed with the 999, without a single ship to protect us. the places we saw and the places we went. this is strictly confidential and you will treat it so, i hope, that strictly confidentially, here is the latest dope. [whispering] >> you might just as well write it all over the sky. ♪ ladies and gentlemen, the war department regrets to announce that due to recent leaks and restricted military information, our entire 999th division has been annihilated by the enemy. >> my own outfit. some guy shot his mouth off.
8:33 am
any jerk to do that should be run over by a streetcar. >> joining us from new york is author mark harris. "five came titled : a story of hollywood and the war." as we conclude our discussion on frank capra, how the world war ii and the postwar years change this director? >> all five of the directors i write about, capra was the one who expected to come back and have the best career in hollywood after the war. instead, he had the worst. he founded a company with two of the other directors called liberty films. this is one of the first independent movie companies that was meant to get powerful directors out from under the oppressive restriction of movie
8:34 am
studios and give them some autonomy over what material they chose and how was made and budgeted. the plan was for each of the three directors to make three movies, but the company never got past the first movie, which was capra's film, "it's a wonderful life." although we now consider that movie a parental -- perennial holiday classic, it was not a financial success when it came out. it was not a popular movie. it was overshadowed by "the best years of our lives." it came out in the same year. and it bankrupted the company. capra was so shattered by the failure and the loss of liberty films, his insecurities about having lost his status in hollywood and his unerring
8:35 am
instinct for what would work with audiences really overcame him. he only made about five more movies for the rest of his career and none of them were successful. his career was over after 1946. >> mark harris joining us from new york. his book "five came back and the second world war. war." the second world thanks for being with us. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by national captioning institute] are focused one the speaker is that he has made certain allegations that he must answer to.
8:36 am
but the interesting fact is, the whole tinder of your marks going back to1970 and going 1972, taking them out of context, you were making one point and one alone in my opinion, that was to imply that members on the side were un-american in their activity. you stopped, you waited, you motion. you knew that there was nobody there -- nobody here. -- camscam. but those two into perspective. >> he was a giant. he knew the politics of the house. he obviously received a great amount of intelligence all day long from members all day long of what was going on in
8:37 am
different places. and he always believed that politics was the art of the politician. nobody got their way all the time and he was a broker within the democratic caucus and within the house. what you saw was newt gingrich, who made a cautious decision that they would always be in the minority because they work with the majority. so he started attacking bob , johnl, the leader rhodes, editor betty on that side -- and everybody on that side. said, the only avenue to the majority is through confrontation and we will take them down. this is an argument about the misuse of tv, now coming to the floor he would ask these rhetorical questions and make these charges, and he knew the chamber was empty. but at that time, the camera was very tight on the speaker at the time, wherever they were. to show the came
8:38 am
chamber. it changes the dynamics. but that was the process that now many years later has torn this institution apart and paralyze the institution. >> congressman george miller, sunday night at 8:00 on c-span's q&a. >> on a lonely, windswept point on the northern shore of france, the air is soft, but 40 years ago at this moment, the air was dense with smoke and the cries of men, and the air was filled with the crack of rifle fire and the roar of cannon. at dawn on the morning of the , 225 rangers, 1944 jumped off the british landing craft and ran to the bottom of these cliffs. their mission was one of the most difficult and daring in the invasion, to climb these sheer and desolate cliffs and take out the enemy guns. the allies had been told that some of the mightiest of these
8:39 am
guns were here and that they would be trained on the beaches to stop the allied advance. the rangers looked up and saw the eminently -- the enemy soldiers shooting down at them with machine guns and throwing grenades and the american rangers began to climb. >> this began, american history tv will mark the 70th anniversary of the d-day invasion of normandy. this morning at 10:30 a.m. eastern, watch this year's commemoration from the world war ii memorial in washington. author and historian craig simon will discuss his new book. and at 1230 p.m., he will take your questions live. and at 1:30 p.m., a look back at presidential speeches commemorating the day. all on c-span3 through the day. or in chinese workers of the railroad.
8:40 am
join labor department officials and families of the workers to honor their commitment and sacrifices. secretary perez says the honor is overdue to the man whose work on the transcontinental railroad helped to build a nation. this is hosted by the department of labor and is about an hour and 15 minutes. >> welcome and thank you for being here. welcome to the department as we commemorate asian-pacific and pacific islander heritage month. i also want to thank all who are joining us by a live stream webcast. we are also thrilled to have c-span here today. so that these events the important commemoration can

65 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on